Gorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich

Gorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich

(mēkhəyēl` sĭrgā`yəvich gərbəchof`), 1931–, Soviet political leader. Born in the agricultural region of Stavropol, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State Univ., where in 1953 he married a philosophy student, Raisa Maksimovna Titorenko (1932?–99). Returning to Stavropol, he moved gradually upward in the local Communist party. In 1970, he became Stavropol party leader and was elected to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Regarded as a skilled technocrat and a reformer, Gorbachev joined (1978) the Communist party secretariat as agriculture secretary, and in 1980 he joined the politburo as the protégé of Yuri AndropovAndropov, Yuri Vladimirovich
, 1914–84, Soviet Communist leader (1982–84). As ambassador to Hungary from 1954 to 1957, he played a major role in the suppression of the 1956 anti-Communist uprising there.
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. After Andropov's ascension to party leadership, Gorbachev assumed (1983) full responsibility for the economy.

Following the death of Konstantin ChernenkoChernenko, Konstantin Ustinovich
, 1911–85, Soviet political leader. A protégé of Leonid Brezhnev, he rose through Communist party ranks in the 1950s, becoming a full member of the Central Committee (1971) and the Politburo (1978).
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 (Andropov's successor) in 1985, Gorbachev was appointed general secretary of the party despite being the youngest member of the politburo. He embarked on a comprehensive program of political, economic, and social liberalization under the slogans of glasnostglasnost
, Soviet cultural and social policy of the late 1980s. Following his ascension to the leadership of the USSR in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev began to promote a policy of openness in public discussions about current and historical problems.
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 ("openness") and perestroikaperestroika
, Soviet economic and social policy of the late 1980s. Perestroika [restructuring] was the term attached to the attempts (1985–91) by Mikhail Gorbachev to transform the stagnant, inefficient command economy of the Soviet Union into a decentralized
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 ("restructuring"). The nuclear disaster at ChernobylChernobyl
, Ukr. Chornobyl, abandoned city, N Ukraine, near the Belarus border, on the Pripyat River. Ten miles (16 km) to the north, in the town of Pripyat, is the Chernobyl nuclear power station, site of the worst nuclear reactor disaster in history. On Apr.
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 (1986) forced Gorbachev to allow even greater freedom of expression. The government released political prisoners, allowed increased emigration, attacked corruption, and encouraged the critical reexamination of Soviet history.

In a series of summit talks (1985–88), Gorbachev improved relations with U.S. President Ronald ReaganReagan, Ronald Wilson
, 1911–2004, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), b. Tampico, Ill. In 1932, after graduation from Eureka College, he became a radio announcer and sportscaster.
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, with whom he signed an Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) arms limitation treaty in 1987. By 1989 he had brought about the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (see Afghanistan WarAfghanistan War,
1978–92, conflict between anti-Communist Muslim Afghan guerrillas (mujahidin) and Afghan government and Soviet forces. The conflict had its origins in the 1978 coup that overthrew Afghan president Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, who had come to power by ousting
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) and had sanctioned the end of the Communist monopoly on political power in Eastern Europe. For his contributions to reducing East-West tensions, he was awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize. By 1990, however, Gorbachev's perestroika program had failed to deliver significant improvement in the economy, and the elimination of political and social control had released latent ethnic and national tensions in the Baltic statesBaltic states,
the countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, bordering on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Formed in 1918, they remained independent republics until their involuntary incorporation in 1940 into the USSR. They regained their independence in Sept.
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, in the constituent republics of ArmeniaArmenia
, Armenian Hayastan, officially Republic of Armenia, republic (2005 est. pop. 2,983,000), 11,500 sq mi (29,785 sq km), in the S Caucasus. Armenia is bounded by Turkey on the west, Azerbaijan on the east (the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan is on its
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, GeorgiaGeorgia
, Georgian Sakartvelo, Rus. Gruziya, officially Republic of Georgia, republic (2005 est. pop. 4,677,000), c.26,900 sq mi (69,700 sq km), in W Transcaucasia.
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, UkraineUkraine
, Ukr. Ukraina, republic (2005 est. pop. 47,425,000), 232,046 sq mi (601,000 sq km), E Europe. It borders on Poland in the northwest; on Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova in the southwest; on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the south; on Russia in the
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, and MoldovaMoldova
, officially Republic of Moldova, republic (2005 est. pop. 4,455,000), c.13,000 sq mi (33,670 sq km). Chişinău (formerly Kishinev) is the capital and largest city. Land and People

Moldova is landlocked.
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, and elsewhere.

A newly created (1989) Congress of People's Deputies voted in Mar., 1990, to end the Communist party's control over the government and elected Gorbachev executive president. During 1990 and 1991, however, the reform drive stalled, and Gorbachev appeared to be mollifying remaining hardliners, who were disgruntled over the deterioration of the Soviet empire and increasing marginalization of the Communist party. An unsuccessful anti-Gorbachev coup by hardliners in Aug., 1991 (see August CoupAugust Coup,
attempted coup (Aug. 18–22, 1991) against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. On the eve of the signing ceremony for a new union treaty for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, members of the Politburo and the heads of the Soviet military and security
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), shifted greater authority to the Russian Republic's president, Boris YeltsinYeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich
, 1931–2007, Soviet and Russian politician, president of Russia (1991–99). Born in Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) and educated at the Urals Polytechnic Institute, Yeltsin began his career as a construction worker (1953–68).
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, and greatly accelerated change. Gorbachev dissolved the Communist party, granted the Baltic states independence, and proposed a much looser, chiefly economic federation among the remaining republics. With the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent StatesCommonwealth of Independent States
(CIS), community of independent nations established by a treaty signed at Minsk, Belarus, on Dec. 8, 1991, by the heads of state of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Between Dec. 8 and Dec.
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 (CIS) on Dec. 8, 1991, the federal government of the Soviet Union became superfluous, and on Dec. 25, Gorbachev resigned as president. Since 1992, Gorbachev has headed international organizations; written several books, including On My Country and the World (tr. 1999), and run unsuccessfully (1996) for the Russian presidency. He also heads the International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, better know as the Gorbachev Foundation (est. 1991), a think-tank.

Bibliography

See his Memoirs (1996). See also A. Brown, The Gorbachev Factor (1996); S. Kotkin, Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970–2000 (2001).